Wednesday 27 June 2018

Hold that Tiger! 23rd June 2018

Two years ago Peter gave me a jar full of caterpillars of the Scarlet Tiger Moth which were present in plague proportions and busily munching their way through various plants in his garden near Oxford. My plan was to attempt to establish a similar colony in my garden at Kingham in northwest Oxfordshire, as in neglected areas of my garden there was plenty of Green Alkanet, the foodplant they favoured in Peter's garden, although generally their favoured food plant is said to be Comfrey-but we  have that in our garden also. 

That year the birds seemed to have eaten all the caterpillars and I could find little evidence of their survival but even so, the next year, I found one Scarlet Tiger Moth in our garden, so maybe some caterpillars had survived to pupate after all.

I thought no more about it and assumed that was the last I would see of Scarlet Tiger Moths anywhere around our garden, so you can imagine my delight when yesterday I found no less than four of this spectacular, attractive and brightly coloured moth in our garden.

Not only that but two were in the process of mating so, after all, I may yet have established a colony in my garden and I can but hope it increases year on year, as it is a delight to encounter such an attractive insect right on my doorstep. 

Scarlet Tiger Moths are not particularly rare but are locally distributed in southern and western counties of England, including Oxfordshire, and in southwest Wales.There are also small scattered populations in northwest England.

They are said to prefer damp places such as fens, marshes and river banks as well as rocky cliffs by the sea but  our garden cannot be described as such and is about as far from the sea as is possible, so they may be more catholic in their tastes than the experts would have us believe. They are distributed throughout most of Europe and the Near East (Turkey and Iran). The adult moth flies in May and June and unlike many other moth species has mouth parts which enable it to feed on nectar. 

They also come in three colour morphs (the images illustrating this blog are of the normal morph) but the other morphs can have all yellow hindwings and body or extended black on the hindwings. A genetic study of the three colour morphs has been conducted at Cothill Fen in Oxfordshire where all three morphs occur

Mating Scarlet Tigers in my garden
I do hope the mating pair are successful and the female lays eggs as I will be delighted if I can provide a safe home for them in what is becoming  an increasingly hostile environment in our countryside for any insect.

Please click on any image to view a larger version

1 comment:

  1. They're gorgeous aren't they? We had one yesterday evening that kept flying in & out of our patio doors. Eventually it settled in the house, so I had to rescue it & put it out again!